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Bored South Africans increasingly falling prey to 'sextortion' during lockdown

South Africans who are sharing explicit pictures and videos of themselves during lockdown are falling prey to sextortionists.
South Africans who are sharing explicit pictures and videos of themselves during lockdown are falling prey to sextortionists.
Image: 123RF / Glebstock

Extortion over sexually explicit content is becoming an “extremely profitable” cyber crime during SA's lockdown.

This is according to security specialists and law experts who have seen an increase in this type of online criminal activity during the mandatory confinement.

Cyber criminals, particularly “sextortionists”, are capitalising on the fact that many South Africans are online while staying at home.

These criminals are duping people into sharing explicit material of themselves, and then threatening to expose them if money or sexual favours are not given.

Mike Bolhuis, of Specialised Security Services, said: “Especially within the confinement of the pandemic, these types of criminal activities have become extremely profitable.

“A new and concerning trend brought to our attention is the appearance of South African women in this form of victimisation. This is a trend perpetrated by women of all classes, circumstances, ethnic backgrounds and education.”

Bolhuis said sextortion was a “low risk” way to make money or extort sexual favours from the victims.

“Many victims can easily be reached online. Most extortionists get away with the crime because the victims are often worried about reporting these offences to the police because they are embarrassed.

“Furthermore, the stigma and humiliation associated with this type of abuse may also deter people from reporting the crimes.

“Revenge porn and the distribution of nude pictures and other sexually explicit content of a person without their consent is illegal in South Africa and a criminal offence,” said Bolhuis.

He said sextortionists often use images of attractive men or women to lure their victims “to participate in sharing sexual acts or favours”.

“They force victims to carry out sexually explicit acts, like posing for nude photographs or performing sexual acts in front of a webcam, through persuasion or threats.”

Social media law expert Emma Sadleir has been inundated with complaints about sextortion during the lockdown.

“Everything is happening online. People are home and bored, so many are willing to send pictures,” said Sadleir.


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